Purpose: To investigate the factors associated with underperformance and the subsequent changes in training characteristics and supportive actions when returning to the world’s best cross-country skier. Methods: The participant is the most decorated winter Olympian, with 8 Olympic gold medals, 18 World Championship titles, and 114 World Cup victories. Training data were categorized by training form (endurance, strength, and speed); intensity (low, moderate, and high); and mode (running, cycling, and skiing/roller skiing). In addition, test data were retrospectively analyzed, and interviews were performed with the participant and her support team. Results: After the competitive season, the participant had 8 weeks without systematic training and an evaluation process aiming to detect the factors contributing to underperformance. Here physiological, technical, and psychological challenges were detected. As a consequence, the participant included less high-intensity training (1.2 vs 2.1 sessions/wk, P = .011); more moderate-intensity training (0.9 vs 0.4 sessions/wk, P = .016); and more low-intensity training (6.9 vs 5.9 sessions/wk, P = .036) during the general preparation phase but with similar total endurance training load as previous season. In addition, more strength training (1.6 vs 1.1 h/wk, P = .036) and new ski-specific strength exercises were included. Finally, the athlete’s autonomy when planning and adjusting training was increased, nontraining stressors were reduced, more frequent testing was included, systematic mental training was initiated, her nutritional strategy was adjusted, and her asthma treatment was optimized. Conclusions: Overall, the current case study could be used as a framework for the holistic approach to treating an overtraining condition and for generation of new hypothesis in this exiting area.
Guro Strøm Solli, Espen Tønnessen and Øyvind Sandbakk
Øyvind Sandbakk, Guro Strøm Solli and Hans-Christer Holmberg
The current review summarizes scientific knowledge concerning sex differences in world-record performance and the influence of sport discipline and competition duration. In addition, the way that physiological factors relate to sex dimorphism is discussed. While cultural factors played a major role in the rapid improvement of performance of women relative to men up until the 1990s, sex differences between the world’s best athletes in most events have remained relatively stable at approximately 8–12%. The exceptions are events in which upper-body power is a major contributor, where this difference is more than 12%, and ultraendurance swimming, where the gap is now less than 5%. The physiological advantages in men include a larger body size with more skeletal-muscle mass, a lower percentage of body fat, and greater maximal delivery of anaerobic and aerobic energy. The greater strength and anaerobic capacity in men normally disappear when normalized for fat-free body mass, whereas the higher hemoglobin concentrations lead to 5–10% greater maximal oxygen uptake in men with such normalization. The higher percentage of muscle mass in the upper body of men results in a particularly large sex difference in power production during upper-body exercise. While the exercise efficiency of men and women is usually similar, women have a better capacity to metabolize fat and demonstrate better hydrodynamics and more even pacing, which may be advantageous, in particular during long-lasting swimming competitions.
Roland van den Tillaar, Erna von Heimburg and Guro Strøm Solli
Purpose: To compare the assessment of the maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) in a traditional graded exercise test (GXT) with a 1-km self-paced running test on a nonmotorized treadmill in men and women. Methods: A total of 24 sport-science students (12 women: age 23.7 [7.7] y, body height 1.68 [0.02] m, body mass 66.6 [4.3] kg; 12 men: 22.1 [3.1] y, body height 1.82 [0.06] m, body mass 75.6 [11.0] kg) performed a traditional GXT on a motorized treadmill and a 1-km self-paced running test on a nonmotorized treadmill. VO2max, blood lactate, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion, together with running velocity and duration at each test, were measured. Results: The main findings of the study were that the 1-km test produced significantly higher VO2max values (53.2 [9.9] vs 51.8 [8.8] mL/kg/min ) and blood lactate concentrations (11.9 [1.8] vs 11.1 [2.2] mmol/L) than the GXT (F ≥ 4.8, P ≤ .04, η 2 ≥ .18). However, after controlling for sex, these differences were only present in men (60.6 [8.1] vs 58.1 [8.0] mL/kg/min , P = .027). Peak running velocity was higher in the GXT than in the 1-km test (15.7 [2.7] vs 13.0 [2.8] km/h). Men had higher VO2max values and running velocities than women in both tests. However, men and women used approximately similar pacing strategies during the 1-km test. Conclusions: Higher VO2max values were observed in a 1-km self-paced test than in the GXT. This indicates that a 1-km running test performed on a nonmotorized treadmill could serve as a simple and sport-specific alternative for the assessment of VO2max.
Guro Strøm Solli, Pål Haugnes, Jan Kocbach, Roland van den Tillaar, Per Øyvind Torvik and Øyvind Sandbakk
Purpose: To compare the effects of a short specific and a long traditional warm-up on time-trial performance in cross-country skiing sprint using the skating style, as well as related differences in pacing strategy and physiological responses. Methods: In total, 14 (8 men and 6 women) national-level Norwegian cross-country skiers (age 20.4 [3.1] y; VO2max 65.9 [5.7] mL/kg/min) performed 2 types of warm-up (short, 8 × 100 m with gradual increase from 60% to 95% of maximal speed with a 1-min rest between sprints, and long, ∼35 min at low intensity, including 5 min at moderate and 3 min at high intensity) in a randomized order with 1 hour and 40 minutes of rest between tests. Each warm-up was followed by a 1.3-km sprint time trial, with continuous measurements of speed and heart rate. Results: No difference in total time for the time trial between the short and long warm-ups (199  vs 200  s; P = .952), or average speed and heart rate for the total course, or in the 6 terrain sections (all P < .41, η 2 < .06) was found. There was an effect of order, with total time-trial time being shorter during test 2 than test 1 (197  vs 202  s; P = .004). No significant difference in blood lactate and rating of perceived exertion was found between the short versus long warm-ups or between test 1 and test 2 at any of the measurement points during the test day (P < .58, η 2 > .01). Conclusions: This study indicates that a short specific warm-up could be as effective as a long traditional warm-up during a sprint time trial in cross-country skiing.